The times have really changed since you and I had our senior portraits taken!  Gone are the days when high school seniors were forced to take their portraits in a tuxedo or drape. Nowadays, high school senior portraits are an amazing opportunity for high school seniors to show the world who they are, what they love, and even the person that they hope to become. Senior portraits provide a rare opportunity to document a fleeting moment in your senior’s life and to create lasting family heirlooms or art for your home that will be enjoyed for generations. Here are the 10 most frequently asked questions parents ask me about scheduling their so or daughter’s high school senior portraits!

Sunset High School Senior Girl at Cathedral Park in Portland Oregon - Headshot

1. When should I schedule my high school senior’s portrait session?

When to schedule your high school senior’s portrait sesstion is no doubt the most frequently asked question I receive from parents. In fact, I’ve written an entire blog post just on this subject!

The most popular time for seniors to have their high school portraits taken is during the summer prior to their senior year. However, Fall portraits are not uncommon for outdoorsy students who prefer to take advantage of the seasonal colors. And there are even some adventuous and creative souls who run (or ski) to the Mountains for some unique and wintery senior images.

The short answer here is that there is no right or wrong time to schedule a senior portrait session, though most high school senior’s schedule their portrait dates out of a desire to meet the senior photo submission deadline for their high school yearbook.

2. What should my child wear for their senior portrait session?

What your student should wear for their senior portrait session is always an amusing (and sometimes hot) topic of conversation during the pre-session consultations I offer to my clients! Suffice it to say, parents and seniors don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to wardrobe decisions for their senior pictures! Fortunately, my senior portrait sessions include an unlimited number of clothing changes, so my approach is always to encourage both parents and seniors to compromise, simply by photographing everyone’s favorite outfits!  

That being said, the general advice I give to my high school seniors is to consider choosing outfits that fall into three categories. The first and most important category is made of the outfits that your senior wears day in and day out.  Think about the dirty laundry that you see balled up on the floor every time you walk into your high school senior’s bedroom. Senior portraits are supposed to show off your student’ unique personality, and having them wear outfits that they feel truly comfortable and make them feel good about themselves will often make the most compelling senior portraits. 

The second category is quite the opposite. These are the outfits that fall more on the formal side.  Now I’ve certainly had high school seniors wear tuxedos and prom dresses, but you don’t have to go to that extreme (especially if it might cause your senior boy to rebel)! Consider for example wearing an outfit that your senior might wear to a job or college interview.  The goal here is to find an outfit or set of outfits that.s classy and timeless.

Finally, the third category is made up of outfits that show off a special interest or hobby that your high school senior might have.  For student’s who play sports, it might be for example a football or volleyball uniform. But if your student’s hobby doesn’t lend itself to specific outfit, props or accessories like paint brushes, musical instruments, bows and arrows, and the like can be used to enhance your student’s senior portraits. The idea is to think about the things that you high school senior loves or loves to do, and to let them tell that story through their high school senior portraits. 

3. Should my high school senior wear makeup and get a professional hairdo?

Hair and makeup is such a personal decision for so many of my high school senior portrait clients. I would say that the number of high school girl clients who choose to wear makeup to senior portrait sessions with my studio is split right down the middle.

Regrettably, there are some photographers who outright refuse to photograph a senior girl without makeup because makeup can make it easier for a photographer to retouch skin blemishes in a senior portrait.  I believe that approach is misguided and, sadly, is more about the photographer’s needs than celebrating this important and fleeting moment in the life of a high school senior.

As a professional photographer, I believe that it is my obligation to capture the essence of my subjects and to create images that reflect the strong, beautiful, individuals that my high school senior clients truly are. For some high school girls, that means polished hair and makeup. And for many others, it means capturing that girl or boy’s    pure and natural beauty.

Yes, professional makeup can certainly elevate a high school senior portrait for the right high school senior girl. But I also have many clients who choose to do their own hair and makeup, and equally as many who choose to wear no makeup at all. In all cases, the result is beautiful portraits that reflect each student’s unique personality and style.

Even for those who choose to wear makeup, however, I do offer some words of caution. Keep your hair and makeup light and natural, and take care not to go over the top. Your makeup should be at a level that you would wear on any regular day to school or work, not necessarily for a night out on the town. If you wear makeup that makes you look like a completely different person, it will defeat the purpose of your senior portraits and chances are you won’t like the results. The same goes for hairdos and haircuts.  I don’t recommend trying out a new style in the days or weeks leading up to your senior portrait session.

4. Where should we take my son or daughter’s senior portraits?

As a professional photographer who specializes in on location high school senior portraits, I take a pretty controversial view when it comes to choosing a location for your senior portrait session: “It doesn’t really matter.” 

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Let me explain.

I do think that it is important for your high school senior to be photographed in a location that is significant and meaningful to them and your family.  Maybe your student loves to be outdoors and want to be photographed in the forest. Or they are obsessed with waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest and want to be photographed in the Columbia River Gorge. Perhaps there is a neighborhood park that brings back fond memories of their childhood for your family. Or your son or daughter is an artist who is attracted to the colorful murals in urban or downtown Portland.

All of these are great reasons to choose a particular spot for your senior portraits. I work closely with each of my high school senior clients and their families to help them choose a location that feels right to them. And I maintain a detailed list of great senior portrait locations for this purpose.

But the truth is that the background should only serve to enhance the subject of the photograph, which is your high school senior. In my view, the scenary in the background should never become the subject of your child’s senior portraits. That’s just not what senior portraits are all about.

I have spent years learning to photograph and light high school seniors in almost any environment and every circumstance. I am confident that I can create beautiful portraits of your high school senior — no matter the location, no matter the time of day, and no matter the lighting situation. And that’s why, ultimately, the location of your senior portraits doesn’t really matter.

5. Can family members be included in a senior portrait session?

I get asked this question a lot, and it’s always an awkward conversation.  The answer is yes….and then again, sometimes the answer is no!  

Let’s start with my overall philosophy about high school senior portraits sessions. You see, I believe strongly that as a parent you have a a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture professional photographs of the person your high school senior is, right now, at this very transient moment in his or her life. They are about to embark on a new path in life, and they will never be the same person again. Ever.

Therefore, it is important to me that we gift your high school senior with a senior portrait sessions that is primarily (if not all) about your high school senior. Together we can give your senior an amazing experience that leaves them feeling confident, empowered and beautiful.

Does that mean that I won’t take a few minutes to take a photograph your high school senior with her immediate family at the beginning or end of their portrait session?  Or to capture him giving his little sister a big bear hug?  Of course not!  But if what you really need is a family portrait session, let’s be fair to both your high school senior and your family and schedule that for another day.

6. Can we order digital copies of my son or daugter’s senior pictures?

Here at Brian Pasko Photography, we understand that we do in fact now live in the 21st century! Digital images are everywhere, and they are a big part of modern life. I get it. 

But that doesn’t mean that making physical prints and creating lasting family heirlooms is any less important! Hard drives fail. Images on cell phones get lost. And please tell me…when was the last time you went rummaging through your bedroom closet to find that CD of images you wanted to show off during your family’s last holiday party?

I really believe in the power of printed portraits. So much so that, on average, I make about 1200-1500 prints and fill about four family portrait albums to the brim each year. (Okay, maybe it’s possible that I have a problem. Please don’t judge me.)

So what does this mean for your son or daughter’s high school senior portrait session? Each of my senior portrait collections includes BOTH a certain amount of digital images that are yours to download and share online AND a certain amount of credit that you can use to purchase heirloom-quality, professionally printed artwork through my studio. I am happy to send you detailed information about my senior portrait packages and pricing.  Click here to learn more about my high school senior portrait sessions!

7. How long with it take before I will see my son or daughter’s senior portraits?

I do my best to provide my clients with a proofing gallery of their senior portraits within 10-14 days of their senior session. Sometimes during the busiest points of the senior portrait season, it may take a bit longer.

And I always prioritize clients that are up against yearbook submission deadlines. I encourage my senior portrait clients to schedule their sessions at least 3 to 4 weeks before their yearbook submission deadline whenever possible. If you have an urgent need to receive your portraits by a certain date, please communicate that to me and I will do my best to meet your needs.

After you’ve seen your gallery of images and you decide to place an order, the time it takes to deliver printed work will normally vary from a few days to a few weeks depending on the types of products that you order. Additionally, extra time may be needed for specialty items such as custom designed books and albums, wall collages, and other design projects.

8. Can you make my reluctant senior boy smile for just one of his senior pictures? Please?

Well, unfortunately I am not a magician. Nor can I work miracles. And no photographer can ever guarantee a natural smile. But what I do have going for me is more than a decade of experience photographing high school seniors. Along with the reality that I’m not your kid’s mom!

And there is also the fact that i too was also once a senior guy who had his mom drag him kicking and screaming to his senior portrait session. So I know exactly where your high school senior boy is coming from. And finding common ground between photographer and subject is half the battle when it comes to capturing that elusive, natural senior boy smile.

The desire to capture natural expressions from your high school senior is one of the most important reasons why I ask each of my clients to complete an online senior portrait survey prior to their portrait session. It’s also why I strongly encourage both you AND your high school senior (no matter how reluctant) to be an integral part of a pre-session planning call.  

The survey and phone call both help me to develop a rapport with your high school senior before our portrait session even begins. I get to learn more about the amazing person your senior is. And along the way, those senior boys usually discover that I’m not the enemy!  

I’ve found over the years that the best approach to getting beautiful smiles out of senior boys, is to simply not treat them like senior boys. When I engage and empower my high school seniors to be a participants in creating a senior portrait experience that fits their personality—and when I take the time to relate to them as the smart, independent young human beings that they are—my chances of creating images with beautiful and natural expressions increase exponentially.

And then there is the nuclear option. I typically encourage parents and other close family members to be part of their child’s senior portrait experience. In most cases this makes the high school senior feel more comfortable and in control. But for some senior guys that’s just not the case, and by excluding mom from the portrait session the two of us to talk “man to man” and we can get down to business. You know your high school student better than anyone, and only you will know if this is the right approach for your family.

9. What happens if it rains on the date of my son or daughter’s senior portrait session or if we need to reschedule?

We all love living in the Pacific Northwest, but being an Oregonian also means learning to love the rain. For senior guys, we can often photograph in a light sprinkle, but that’s not a gamble we usually want to take with senior girls who might invest hours into their pre-portrait session hair and makeup.

In the summer months, I rarely need to cancel a portrait session due to weather (though I have called sessions on the account of extreme heat). But as we work our way into late fall the weather becomes much more unpredictable. 

During the late fall months I will frequently set a backup date for my clients at the same time that we schedule their primary senior portrait session.  And then in the days leading up to your son or daughter’s senior portrait session, I keep a close eye on the hourly forecast and we will cancel and reschedule as necessary.

During the late fall, this means that everyone needs to stay a bit flexible when it comes to outdoor senior portraits. And clients with a looming senior yearbook deadline of course are always a priority.  

I have a similar approach to rescheduling senior portrait sessions for other reasons like a sudden illness. I just ask my clients to give me as much advance notice as possible. Sometimes life throws me a curve ball too, and I might need to ask my clients for the same grace and courtesy.

10. How can I help my high school senior prepare for their senior portrait session?

The most important thing you can do to help your high school senior create amazing senior portraits is to help me give them a fun and memorable high school senior portrait experience.

It’s important to plan your son or daughter’s session with as much lead time as possible. The more lead time that we have to find the right location, shop for the perfect outfits, and to plan the other logistics of their portrait session, the more fun and stress free the experience will be for both of you. And that will show in their senior portraits.

Give them the space to make this senior portrait session their own.  We can photograph in the outfits that both you and they love both love. I can give you traditional portraits along with fun images that show off their personal style in almost any location. Your approach to how we photograph your student’s senior portrait session can make a huge difference.

And in the weeks leading up to the portrait session, make sure that your high school senior stays hydrated.  You’d be surprised what a difference it makes. And getting some regular exercise and plenty of sleep in the days leading up to their portrait session is equally important.

What questions do you have about your son or daughter’s high school senior portrait experience?  Let me know in the comments below, or send me a message and let me know how I can help!  Click here to learn more about my high school senior portrait sessions!

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